Tag Archives: Mexican

San Leandro Eats: Taco Bell

Yes, Taco Bell

Kauai enjoying the Baja Blast straw.

2024 Update

I started my Birthday Weekend Extravaganza (TM) last Thursday by getting Taco Bell for dinner. Yes, Taco Bell. No, I’m not kidding and yes, I think it’s worth blogging about it. Defensive much? (I ask myself, of course).

Despite living in California for over 40 years now, I don’t think I’ve had Taco Bell before. It’s not like I’m against fast food, I’ve tried all the burger chains (or almost), but Taco Bell just never appealed to me. I’m not a fan of crunch, and their crunchy tacos always seemed unwieldy. Plus, really, their meat looked nasty (and then there was the whole scandal about whether it was even meat) and their tacos seemed to be mostly lettuce anyway. So I’ve never been tempted to try them.

Until Thursday night. My daughter was home from college, none of us could figure out what we wanted for dinner, and then she suddenly mentioned she wanted to try Taco Bell’s Black Bean Crunchwrap. I had no idea of what that was, but ordering Taco Bell solved the problem of what to get for dinner, so I jumped at the idea – much to my husband’s surprise (“Taco Bell? Really?”).

For my first incursion into Taco Bell cuisine, I ordered a Steak White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito with extra guacamole ($4.4) and a Steak Quesadilla also with extra guacamole ($6.2). Neither were as bad as I feared. For one, by ordering “steak” items, I was able to avoid the dreaded “seasoned beef”, and while the steak was just low quality meat, it wasn’t actually offensive. Indeed, the steak quesadilla tasted like something I would make at home (which, btw, is why I don’t make quesadillas at home, and instead get them from Taquería Los Pericos). It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, it just was. But it wasn’t was a particular great value. At that price, I might as well get one from Los Pericos. The burrito was pretty similar except that it had french fries inside. I had french fries in souvlaky pitas in Greece in the past, so I was intrigued by the idea of french fries in a burrito. Alas, I’d forgotten that I no longer like french fries and I didn’t like them inside a burrito either. Still, it was perfectly acceptable. Both items were too much for a single meal – I didn’t have a good sense of how big they would be -, one will be enough next time.

I also ordered the cinnabon delights (12 for $5), which are cinnamon roll balls filled with glaze cream. They are deadly. Super, super sweet and I’m surprised I didn’t die of a diabetic coma. But they were very tasty and one goes a long away.

My daughter tried the black bean crunchwrap supreme ($4.4). This is supposed to be a crunchy tostada wrapped in a flour tortilla but it lacked the promised crunch. Instead it was soggy and yet it tasted dry and would have benefitted from a sauce. She wouldn’t order it again. She also didn’t like the spicy potato soft taco. This was just potato, cheese and lettuce in a tortilla, with no sauce or anything to bring it together. IT’s just $1, but not worth the calories. Fortunately, she did like her veggie White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito ($3.3), so at least she didn’t go hungry. The Cinnabon twists ($1) were also good, but not as good as the delights.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that Taco Bell didn’t suck, which is good to know for road trips and if I’m ever hungry and with nothing to eat at 2 AM – which has yet to happen.

Update: my daughter wanted to stop at Taco Bell for a breakfast burrito today so I had her get me a chicken quesadilla ($5.4). As we were in the drive through I didn’t customize it, but I was actually quite satisfied with the results. It had plenty of gooey cheese and it was slightly spicy. It wasn’t particularly big but works for a snack. My daughter got the Sausage Hash Brown Toasted Breakfast Burrito ($2.6) and she was quite happy with it. She’s liked other breakfast burritos before but this one became an instant favorite.

*2024 Update*

I got the Cheesy Chicken Crispanada ($3.50) and I wouldn’t get it again. First, I really didn’t like the shell. It was too crispy and too thick/heavy, while lacking flakiness, flexibility and flavor. The filling mostly tasted of nacho cheese. The chicken provided some texture, but not enough to notice it. There was also a disconcerting spiciness to it. Making an empanada is not hard, so it’s pretty sad that Taco Bell couldn’t figure it out.

I also got a Stacker ($2.20), which is basically a grilled quesadilla folded in two. Inside the tortilla there is beef filling and cheese. If you like Taco Bell’s beef filling, you would like it. I don’t think it’s that great, so I wouldn’t order it again.

Finally, I got the Chips and Nacho Cheese Sauce ($2.30). The chips are very light, and crunchy. A little bit oily. The queso doesn’t have much cheese flavor, it’s fairly spicy and no better than the jarred kind

Taco Bell
At 797 Marina Blvd
San Leandro, CA
Dine In M-Su 7 AM - 10 PM
Drive Through Su-Th 7 AM - 3 AM, F-Sa 7 AM - 4 AM

Tacos Los Amigos – Oakland

I finally get the taco obsession

Carne Asada Tacos

I’ve eaten tacos for years, decades really. Not too many tacos, though, because I never quite got the point of them. Often, I wasn’t fond of the toppings, or the taco sauce and the tortilla-to-meat ratio never seemed to make sense to me. Plus I’m not a huge fan of corn tortillas in the first place. So, for me, it’s been all about burritos. Until a few nights ago, that is, when my daughter had a taco hankering herself and decided to drive to Tacos Los Amigos in East Oakland to get some. I asked her to bring a single beef taco and boy!, it was love at first bite. I finally get tacos.

I can’t tell you what it actually is, but the combination of beef, diced onion, cilantro and whatever else was on those tiny tortillas just did it for me. I don’think it was the sauce because when I got them again, they had a white sauce (it was a more orange one that first night). But both sauces worked. The tacos just tasted fresh and authentic (though I think I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten tacos in Mexico, my travel adventures there are limited to the Yucatan, the land of salbutes and panuchos, which are delicious, but not really tacos). I actually appreciated, for once, the flavor of the corn tortilla. They were tiny, mind you, but they were gooood.

Al Pastor Tacos

I was just as happy with the two al pastor tacos I got during my second visit (or rather, the second time I sent my daughter to get them). The slightly sweet pork was tasty and went very well with the other standard toppings. I might have even liked them more than the carne asada ones.

There are several problems with Los Amigos, however. One is that as it’s located in East Oakland, I don’t feel very safe sending my teen daughter to get me some (though she does), plus the truck is not really close to my house. Second, they are not cheap – at around $3.50 for pretty small tacos (think 4 tacos for a normal dinner). Third, Los Amigos seems to have eclectic hours – they weren’t there last Sunday evening when I sent my daughter to get more tacos (but they were Monday night). But the biggest problem is that I’ve been left wanting more tacos now.

Los Amigos Taco Truck
5401 International Blvd
Oakland, CA
(510) 379-0846
Uncertain hours

Harley’s or JDs Burgers & Mexican Food, San Leandro, CA – Review

March 2012

This restaurant has once again changed names and, perhaps, ownership.  I think it’s still Mexican.  I haven’t tried it but given all the bad experiences we’ve had at that location I won’t go there until someone swears to me on their puppy’s life that it’s the best restaurant in San Leandro.

Feburary 2011

Harley’s Burgers has changed ownership and concept and is now a Burger & Mexican food joint. It sort of changed names, it’s menu claims it’s now “JDs Burgers & Mexican Food” but the Harley sign still remains. So does the modest building, and small dining room, though it seems to have been brightened up. Still, this is as modest and divish a restaurant as you can get in San Leandro, and that is its “charm”.

In its previous incantation, Harley’s served OK food at relatively low prices – we went once and though we live a block away, we never felt the need to return. Still, it served the worker and customers of nearby auto shops well. That can no longer be said. We went there for lunch today and I can honestly say that my 8-yo would eat a head of broccoli before eating one of their burgers again. The plain cheeseburger had a small, dry, tasteless beef (we presume) patty, covered in some weird cheese sauce and smothered in some kind of Thousand Islands type dressing. It tasted of nothing but the dressing and the weird cheese, it was just disgusting. The accompanying fries were fine, cooked in oil that was just about to go stale, but steal edible. Camila had a cheese & bean burrito ($3) which she did like, so perhaps their Mexican offerings are better. I still wouldn’t trust them.

To add insult to injury, Harley/JD’s prices are pretty high. A cheeseburger is $7, $8 if you want it with bacon. You can get something a hundred times better at Boulevard Burger for less. Our lunch (well, I did not eat, but Mike and the girls did) of two burgers w/ fries, one bean & cheese burrito, two sodas and one orange juice came to about $20.

Needless to say we will not go back, at least until a new owner chef takes over.

JDs (Harley’s) Burgers & Mexican Food
2170 Washington Ave.
San Leandro, CA
M-F 7 AM – 7:30 PM

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Tequila Grill Redux Redux

Last week our friends Arthur and Eddie suggested that we go out to dinner at Tequila Grill before the kids headed to a show at the library. I’m always in the mood for not cooking (well, that’s not really true, but I thought it sounded cute), so I thought it was a splendid idea. Well, perhaps not splendid as I haven’t been impressed with Tequila Grill in the past, but it’s nice to get out. And alas, it’s good I have that attitude because Tequila Grill failed to impress me yet again.

I had the milanesa sandwich, and the milanesa was nice and tender but not very flavorful. There was also too little meat to bread ratio. The fries it came with were perfectly fine.

I also ordered some guacamole and I did like it a lot, it was fresh and well balanced. Alas – there were no chips to eat it with (I did ask for them, they just never came). I found out that french fries with guacamole sort of work.

Mike had the flautas and he thought they were just OK.

I didn’t ask Arthur and Eddie what they thought of their dishes, but Cynthia – who’d come with us along with her kids Orestes and Aegea, didn’t seem very impressed with whatever she ordered. Orestes’ actually found his burrito nauseating, though he couldn’t quite figure out why.

The younger kids seemed fine with their quesadillas (I didn’t try them).

So no, I won’t be rushing back to Tequila Grill, though I imagine I’ll end up there again some time.

Tequila Grill
1350 E. 14th St.
San Leandro
(510) 895-5351
(More San Leandro restaurant reviews at http://www.marga.org/food/rest/sl.html

San Gaspar

San Gaspar RestaurantUpdate:  San Gaspar reopened after a fire. I haven’t been back since.
I’ve been meaning to write the restaurant review for San Gaspar for a couple of weeks now, but I haven’t gotten to it so my recollections have gotten dimmer. I can tell you that we went with my friend Arthur and his kids, this is a place they frequent and like quite a bit. I thought it was pretty good too. The food was quite well priced, in the very low teens for pretty large platters. I had the carnitas and they were very good – large chunks of flavorful meat, not too dry. They came with a huge portion of good fries. Arthur had the chimichanga and he also enjoyed it. On the other hand, their quesadilla – which we ordered for the kids – was pedestrian. Mike’s enchiladas were also just OK. Their chips and salsa were pretty tasty, but not old-Chevy’s quality.
The restaurant itself is pretty modest, but it reminded me of the sort of restaurants in Mexico. It was comfortable, and had their been other people there, I’m sure it would have been convivial. As it was, pretty empty, the kids (an we had 5 with us) were able to enjoy some freedom and play around.
In all I had a good experience and would go back. Mike, on the other hand, wouldn’t be rushing back.
San Gaspar Restaurant
201 E 14th St
San Leandro, CA 94577
(510) 562-6197

Marga’s San Leandro Restaurant Reviews